Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger said the military plans to hire contractors to fill some pilot-instructor positions, in a Dec. 20, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger said the military plans to hire contractors to fill some pilot-instructor positions, in a Dec. 20, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Contractors to help Air Force manage shortage of experienced pilots, technicians

OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Air Force is turning to contractors to address a shortage of experienced military pilots that has forced commanders to walk a delicate line between keeping enough seasoned aviators available to train new recruits and lead missions in the air.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger revealed the military plans to hire contractors to fill some pilot-instructor positions so its active-duty aviators can continue to fly real missions in Canada and around the world.

“It’ll be a small number in the order of nine to 10 for phase one,” Meinzinger said. “And what that means is I won’t have to post in that number of equivalent experienced pilots to teach at the school houses. Meaning they can stay out at the line units.”

The hope is that most of those hired will be retired military pilots.

The measure follows a similar initiative to address a shortage of aircraft technicians, which has seen 49 contractors — many of them retired CF-18 techs — hired at Canada’s fighter-jet bases in Bagotville, Que., and Cold Lake, Alta., to mentor and train younger personnel still in uniform.

The program is expected to cost $6.7 million this fiscal year.

The shortage of military pilots and technicians was first revealed in an explosive auditor general’s report earlier this year in which the watchdog took aim at the Liberal government’s plan to buy second-hand Australian jets. He warned that the air force needed more personnel — not planes.

Efforts have since been made to better retain experienced personnel, in particular, by better supporting military families, tapping reservists to help with basic maintenance work and adjusting some positions to keep pilots in the air rather than flying desks.

The military is also working on a contract for a new training program that will let the air force increase the number of new pilots trained in a given year when necessary. The current program allows only a fixed number to be produced.

While progress has been made, officials say the air force is still short about 225 pilots. Any shortfall will become especially acute when Canada starts to receive new fighter jets, as the air force will be required to train pilots on the new aircraft while still guarding against any attack.

While the current shortfall has coincided with significant growth in the global commercial airline sector, Meinzinger is hoping experienced air force members will opt to keep working with the military as a contractor rather than leaving for a job somewhere else.

“If we can, as opposed to seeing someone leave a regular-force position and move into the civilian industry, we would rather them stay with us part time,” he said. “So one of the things we’ve done is make that as agile a transition as possible.”

The contractors are intended to be a short-term fix while the military works to attract and retain more personnel to meet its needs over the long term, Meinzinger added.

“I see these as temporary enablers. If we look at the long run and as we do more of the (recruitment and retention) work, ideally we get to a healthier point where we don’t have to be as reliant on this particular provisioning as we are today.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 20, 2019.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Workers were busy getting a tall crane in place Thursday morning for the construction of the new courthouse in downtown Red Deer. The facility will include modern technology and replace the existing courthouse upon completion expected in spring 2023. Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Work on Red Deer Justice Centre progressing

Construction of the new courthouse in downtown Red Deer was visible Thursday… Continue reading

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. Vance is ordering his troops to be ready to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and Europe on short notice, and prepare to help distribute the doses while responding to floods and other emergencies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence chief says CAF will be ready after ordering COVID-19 vaccine prep last week

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to… Continue reading

Geoff Neville poses for a photo with his sons Casey, 3, left, and Ryder, 6, in this undated handout photo. Geoff Neville is a rotational worker in Newfoundland and Labrador who works in a mine in Nunavut for 14 days in a row and then gets 14 days off to come home and see his family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Geoff Neville
‘I’d love to be home:’ N.L. rotational workers facing bullying online

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — As Geoff Neville waited this week in a… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti arrives for a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday November 26, 2020. The Liberal government is set to introduce long-awaited legislation today to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Bill to enshrine UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is set to introduce long-awaited legislation today… Continue reading

In this Nov. 26, 2020, photo, President Donald Trump speaks with reporters after participating in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump expected to flex pardon powers on way out door

WASHINGTON — Advocates and lawyers anticipate a flurry of clemency action from… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Mikael Kingsbury, of Canada, trains during the FIS Freestyle World Cup skiing competition Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Park City, Utah. Kingsbury will miss moguls races for the first time in his World Cup career after suffering a back injury in training on Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Swinger
Canadian moguls star Mikael Kingsbury out four to six weeks with back injury

MONTREAL — Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury will miss moguls races for the first… Continue reading

Detail of James Wilson Morrice's "LaPlage."
James Wilson Morrice canvas outperforms at auction with more than million-dollar sale

A canvas by Montreal-born artist James Wilson Morrice exceeded expectations with a… Continue reading

Bank buildings are photographed in Toronto's financial district on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. International comparisons suggest Canadian financiers are oiling the wheels of the fossil fuel industry at a far greater rate than their peers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
‘Canada really sticks out:’ Studies show banks not so green on climate change

International analyses suggest Canadian financiers are oiling the wheels of the fossil… Continue reading

Goals galore for Ronaldo, Giroud, Neymar in Champions League

Goals galore for Ronaldo, Giroud, Neymar in Champions League

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is seen at a media availablity to introduce new pitcher Shun Yamaguchi in Toronto on January 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Jays ‘prepared’ if things pick up on free agency and trade fronts this off-season

Jays ‘prepared’ if things pick up on free agency and trade fronts this off-season

Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, left, and teammate Taylor Austin are shown during training in Whistler, B.C., in this undated handout photo. Montreal Allouettes running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is used to pysching himself up to sprint down a field, evading a crush of muscled men the entire way. But mentally preparing for his latest venture required bracing for a whole new set of anxieties. As he got ready to hop in a bobsleigh for the first time, Murray-Lawrence knew he'd be zipping down an icy track faster than cars are allowed to travel down most highways. Murrary-Lawrence, 27, is one of three CFL players who joined the national bobsleigh team after the league canceled its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Shaquille Murray-Lawrence
Sliding into a new sport: CFLers turn to bobsled after football season wiped out

Sliding into a new sport: CFLers turn to bobsled after football season wiped out

North Carolina State defensive lineman Daniel Joseph (99) celebrates with linebacker Isaiah Moore after Moore forced a Liberty safety during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Hyman, The News & Observer via AP, Pool
Canadian defensive lineman Daniel Joseph enjoying a banner first campaign at NC State

Canadian defensive lineman Daniel Joseph enjoying a banner first campaign at NC State

Most Read